After 19 games, Then and Now

Cam Charron
November 17 2011 11:30AM

So, Vancouver lost 5-1 last night to Chicago in a blowout on home ice in their 19th game. For an interesting yet useless bit of trivia, last season in their 19th game they dropped a 7-1 game on home-ice to the Blackhawks. The season prior, in their 19th game, they lost 6-1 on the road to St. Louis.

It's really unlucky 19 for the Vancouver Canucks, but what's good is that they tend to pick it up afterwards (for the record, the season before, in 2009, the Canucks had a 6-3 win over the New York Rangers in Game 19, so it isn't some cursed habit) and finish the year on a stronger note than how they started, with 2009 being the exception.

There's a lot of talk in Vancouver about the Canucks being inconsistent, but what's more the case is that they've been consistently unlucky. Never has a Canucks team started on such a down-note in the Behind The Net era (starting in 2008 when everything became tracked on NHL.com, allowing us to better understand player and team talents).

For instance, with the score tied at even strength, the Canucks have held 55.2% of the Corsi events, which means that more than half of the shot attempts were on the other team's net. Score-tied Corsi % is one of the best ways we can gauge a team's true talent.

While 55.2% seems low, it isn't. The Canucks led the league in score-tied even strength Corsi % with 54.5%, so the argument can be made that this is even a better Canucks team this season than last.

Let's take a look at a table, shall we, since the start of the Mike Gillis era. The chart shows how the Canucks team did after its 19th game and how they finished (all data courtesy timeonice.com):

  Corsi % Corsi % F PDO PDO F Win% Win% F
2009 50.6% 50.1% 105.7% 101.9% 0.579 0.549
2010 51.6% 50.3% 101.3% 101.3% 0.526 0.598
2011 53.4% 54.5% 99.4% 102.2% 0.526 0.659
2012 55.2% ? 96.6% ? 0.474 ?

 You can see that the most repeatable talent in there is the Corsi %, as there isn't much deviation from the "after 19 games" mark to the final mark. Last season the Canucks went on an absolute tear halfway through the season, but most of it was percentage-driven. They were still a good team after 19 games, but they had a low PDO.

PDO, as you all know by now, is adding together a team's shooting percentage and save percentage. It's a good indicator of luck and usually regresses to 100%, as you can see for the 2009 team. (Keep in mind this is only score-tied data) Now, the 2010 team is an interesting case study because the PDO was identical after 19 and after 82. But check out how the team's winning percentage spiked, despite theoretically not being as good of a team when you consider Corsi, just spiked. That probably has more to do with the special teams play than it does with even-stength play.

But back to 2012. The Canucks have a very strong Corsi %, but their shooting percentage with the score tied is just 6.5% right now. That's a number so low and so unlucky it's ridiculous. Shooting percentage, except in rare, rare cases (a few first liners will have better shots than a few replacement players) tends to generally even out, especially at the team level.

Vancouver has a couple of very good shooters and a very good goaltender, so their PDO will finish over 100 in the end. So far that hasn't been the case, but the team is bleeding points, unfortunately, when they are maybe the best that they've ever been.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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